- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2008

BEIJING | In the race he has dreamed of winning since he was a teenager in Jamaica, Usain Bolt didn’t let up. He didn’t turn to face the crowd, didn’t put his palms skyward and didn’t pound his chest before he crossed the finish line.

No, Bolt was all business in the final steps of his record-setting victory in the 200-meter dash at the Olympics on Wednesday night at the Bird’s Nest.

The 100 meters, won last weekend by Bolt in record time and with a display of showboating down the stretch, was merely a hobby, something he picked up last year during training.

The 200 carries different meaning for Bolt. It means everything.

That’s why, with victory in hand, Bolt this time kept pushing to the finish, grinding his teeth, pumping his arms, lunging his 6-foot-5-inch frame across the wire.

Bolt’s first goal, victory, was accomplished.

Then he saw the time - a breathtaking 19.30 seconds - and his second goal was achieved.

Another gold medal and another world record for the “Lightning Bolt.”

“This world record means a lot because I’ve been dreaming about this since I was this high,” he said, holding his arm about 2 feet off his news conference lectern. “Everything came together tonight. It blew my mind, and it blew the world’s mind.”

Three nights after breaking his own world record in the 100, Bolt earned a place in the record books and sprinting lore by breaking Michael Johnson’s record of 19.32 seconds set at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

After winning and seeing the time, Bolt screamed, thrust up his arms and fell onto his back. He then kissed the track surface, grabbed his nation’s flag, removed his gold-covered cleats and took another victory lap.

“This race has been my love since I was 15,” said Bolt, who turned 22 on Thursday. “I’ve been saying all season to everybody that the 200 means a lot more to me than the 100.”

By adding the 100 to his schedule and winning both races, Bolt became the first man since Carl Lewis in 1984 and the ninth sprinter overall to accomplish the 100-200 double in the same games. But not even Olympic greats like Lewis or Jesse Owens accomplished what Bolt did - win both races in one games in world record time.

If last week was about the exploits of swimmer Michael Phelps across the street at the Water Cube, this week is turning into all things Bolt. He has one more race, the 400-meter relay, still to run.

Bolt’s winning margin in the 200 of 0.66 seconds was the largest in race history because of the disqualification of second- and third-place finishers Churandy Martina and Wallace Spearmon for running out of their lanes. Americans Shawn Crawford (the champion in 2004) and Walter Dix were awarded the silver and bronze medals.

“I’m serious: He’s bad,” Crawford said of Bolt. “The guy came out and had the best Olympics of anybody of my lifetime.”

Breaking from lane 5, Bolt easily made up the stagger on the competitors to his right, and when the field came around the turn, he already held a comfortable advantage. But instead of showboating like he did Saturday night down the stretch of the 100, Bolt kept pushing in his effort to eclipse Johnson, who won both the 200 and 400 in Atlanta.

Bolt’s time far surpassed his previous personal best of 19.67 seconds, which he ran last month in Greece.

“I knew I could go that fast,” he said. “I had been running fast times all season, running fast times and looking good. It’s not like it’s a surprise, but to shave that much off is a little surprising. The track was really fast, and I told myself I would give my all.”

Johnson, working for British television, was on hand to watch his record fall.

“Incredible,” he said. “He got an incredible start. Guys 6-foot-5 should not be able to start like that. It’s that long, massive stride. He’s eating up so much more track than the others. He came in focused, knowing he would likely win the gold, and now he’s got the record.”

Former American sprint star and current agent Renaldo Nehemiah called watching Bolt run “a beautiful thing for our sport.”

“He’s poetry in motion,” Mr. Nehemiah said. “It’s like he’s some kind of beast running out there. He’s a gazelle, and technically he’s fairly sound. … Usain got off the first half of the race and was strong in the second half. The result was what you saw.”

No runner had come close to breaking Johnson’s mark in the 12 years since he set the record. American sprinter Tyson Gay, who injured a hamstring at the U.S. trials and didn’t qualify for the race in Beijing, had gotten the closest with a 19.62 last year.

“A lot of people compare me to Michael Johnson, but I don’t compare myself to other people because I’m trying to just be me,” Bolt said. “He’s a great athlete. He revolutionized our sport. I just changed it a little bit.”

Bolt woke up at noon with an inkling that the record would be his 11 hours later. As he did on race day of the 100 meters, Bolt ate two orders of chicken nuggets (delivered by his masseuse) before heading to the stadium.

“He did have a feeling,” said Bertland Cameron, who coaches Jamaica’s relay teams. “He knew. Trust me. He was ready.”

Mr. Cameron was one of many Jamaican track officials holding court underneath the stands after the race. Clearly, this is a proud group. They train clean runners. Instead of sending athletes abroad on college scholarships, they keep them at home so everything is geared toward Olympic glory.

Their strategy is working. The Jamaicans won gold in both the men’s and women’s 100 meters (they swept the women’s race), the men’s 200 and the women’s 400 hurdles.

“We have a program. We have good coaches, and we’re paying attention to them,” said Dr. Warren Blake, one of the many team physicians. “We’re harnessing them and keeping them at home if we can. And if they go abroad, they come back, and we train them.”

Bolt didn’t run college track in the United States, and cricket, not track, was his initial sport.

But when coaches saw his speed, they pushed him toward sprinting. He first gained attention in the track world when he won gold in the 200 and two relay silvers at the 2002 world junior championships. As a junior, he became the first to run the 200 in less than 20 seconds.

Bolt’s 2004 and 2005 seasons, though, were derailed by injuries (he failed to get out of 200 heat rounds in Athens), but he has stayed healthy since. He finished second to Gay in the 200 at last year’s world championships.

Sprinters usually peak in their late 20s, so Bolt should have plenty of time to add to his accomplishments.

“He’ll run faster because he still has a lot to learn,” said Donovan Bailey, the 100-meter champion in 1996.

“His starts will get better, and his turns will get better. He has bigger strides, so he’s going to make people look silly.”

Bolt has set the bar, leaving his competitors trying to catch up.

“What he’s running now, we can’t catch him,” said Kim Collins, who finished sixth. “We have to catch him on a bad day when he’s not so fast and then take advantage.”

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